Updated, March 14, 11:20 a.m.
Word spread quickly Wednesday afternoon that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, 76, of Argentina, was chosen as the first pope from the Americas, and the first Jesuit pope.
Bergoglio, who succeeds Pope Benedict XVI and will be known as Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit priest chosen to lead the Catholic church.
"We are pleased that the Holy Spirit has guided the Cardinals to select our new Pope so quickly. The fact that Jesuits are known for dedication to education and Catholic Social Teaching is encouraging to all of us and we look forward to learning more about Pope Francis, said Margaret Williamson, principal of Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford.
"This is a history making occasion from all perspectives and it is wonderful to witness it," Williamson said.
"I was hoping for an American, but I am happy because at least he's 'Western folk,'" said Lynda Przybylski, owner of Bella Gusta in West Hartford Center.
Przybylski said watching the news unfold about the selection of the new pope was "a big thing for me today." A life-long Catholic, she said she is happy that her children have also remained Catholics and that her grandchild is being raised as a Catholic.
However, Przybylski hopes that Pope Francis will lead the church to "change some unreasonable practices," such as allowing priests to marry. "It's important to bring people back into the fold. I believe it's time to change that," she said.
Przybylski is pleased that a Jesuit was chosen, and that his demeanor is humble. "He asked for our blessing first. That's a good start," said Przybylski, who had just watched the announcement on TV.
On Thursday morning, Rev. David Cinquegrani, director of Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center in West Hartford offered the following comments via email: “Pope Francis offers the Church the possibility of a renewed attention to the poor and marginalized in our society. His solidarity with the common person will be an example for the leadership of all religions to live with – and not apart from – those we serve. Though he may not bring the changes some are seeking in particular areas, his humility will garner the trust of people who are in different places and who have different perspectives. The Holy Spirit can only work through a heart that is open to transformation. We pray for balance and we hope for the best.”
Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of the Diocese of Hartford issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon regarding the announcement of Pope Francis:
“This is an historic day, one which we all will always remember, recalling where we were and what we were doing at the time. It will be etched in the memories of people across the world. We share this momentous day with over 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide and people of every faith. It is a joyous day, one filled with hope and promise. The announcement of Pope Francis is one that will affect people everywhere, because of the Catholic Church’s longstanding tradition of providing services to people of every background.
"His opening address to us was enhanced by his immediate call for prayer, asking all of us to pray for him and assuring us of his ongoing prayers for ourselves.
"Today’s exhilarating event will inspire our ongoing prayers for him for all the years ahead,” said Mansell.